#50: Red Tip Photinia

Bird number: 73
Date: June 8, 2012
Wood: Red Tip Photinia (Photinia fraseri)
Source: Back yard

Red Tip Photinia is actually a hybird–a cross between P. glabra and P. serratifolia. It’s a popular ornamental shrub all over the south, and also here in Central Texas. We have some of them on the south side of the swimming pool, where they cause no end of trouble every spring. The little flower petals come off in the prevailing south wind and clog the filter traps. I don’t know what the original owners were thinking when they planted those trees there. I’d love to take them out (the trees, not the former owners), but I have an aversion to cutting down live trees.

One of the trees didn’t survive the long drought we had over the past few years, so when I had the chainsaw out last weekend I took the tree down. Most of it was too small for carving, but I got two nice-sized pieces from the base, one of which became this bird.

I had carved a little wizard from a dead Photinia branch a few years ago, but I didn’t sand and finish that so I had no idea that the wood was so dang pretty. The wood is hard and has a lot of color and grain variations. Pleasant to carve, and sands well. And it finishes up just beautifully. I sanded this piece with 1,000 grit before I applied the finish. The result is glass-smooth and a real pleasure to hold.

My only regret with this piece is that I didn’t let the wood dry long enough. I figured that, since it had been dead for over a year, I could carve and finish it before it cracked. I was wrong. You can’t see it in these small pictures, but there are several small cracks on the breast, and one long crack that starts at the back of the head and extends to about an inch behind the eyelet. Sure, the cracks add character, but I thought the wood had plenty of character without the cracks.

I’ll be sure to let the rest of my Photinia stash dry for a while longer before I try to carve it. It’s an excellent wood for stylized carvings.